The success of Monticello football the last two years says everything you need to know about Birk Olson, the team leader on the field, off the field and every where in between.
But if you’re looking for more, the individual awards Olson is racking up in the weeks following his senior season should fill in the answers to any leftover questions.
Olson was recently named to the Star Tribune All-Metro First Team for his work as a defensive end this year. He was one of just 12 players named to the defensive team.
That honor was preceded by another one. MVP, of the Mississippi 8.
“MVP was my individual goal,” said Olson in an interview with the Times last week. “I put a lot of time into accomplishing it. It’s great to have that pay off.”
The individual honors come after a season where Olson put up monster stats on the defensive side of the ball and contributed big plays on offense to help Monticello to a 7-1 regular season, its best record in 25 years.
On defense Olson finished with 58 tackles, 7.5 sacks, seven quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. Beyond the stat sheet, he produced game changing plays and bone crushing hits, including one he delivered on Big Lake’s quarterback that put a scare into everyone at the field.
Olson looked like he’d been groomed his entire life to be a defensive end. In fact, he had been practicing it for just two years.
“He hadn’t been a defensive end till the last couple games of his sophomore year,” said Magic Coach Jason Telecky. “He’d been a middle linebacker, and to be honest with you, he didn’t read too well.”
The staff knew he was too good of an athlete to waste, so they tried moving him elsewhere, to defensive end.
He was good from the start. But as sophomore season rolled into junior season, he got better. As his junior season wound down, he became great. And in his senior year, unstoppable.
“I really think that he has evolved so much as a football player,” said Telecky. “Obviously he comes to us and he’s got a certain skill set that’s pretty impressive, and a work ethic that’s unmatched … But it really seemed to click midway through last year.”
His work ethic, combined with his academic intelligence (Olson holds a 4.0 GPA) helped him pick up the position quicker than others might. Olson’s always spent hours in the weight room (a whopping 542 over his career), but he started spending extra hours on tape and on technique. It quickly paid off.
This season Olson opened the season by causing two fumbles against Denfield on plays his coach side you just can’t teach. As the season progressed, he managed to continue his dominance on defense while finding a way to impact the game on offense, despite a lessened load to help keep him 100 percent on defense.
“I try to contribute more defensively, because we have a little more depth on offense, more guys to give the ball to,” said Olson. “Not touching the ball as much didn’t really bother me.”
When he did touch it, he was effective. In Monti’s only regular season loss, Olson took a pitch and went 37 yards to pull the Magic within three and reignite a quiet homecoming crowd. It was one of those moments that reminded people just because some of his work goes unnoticed (as the work of many defensive linemen does), Olson was capable of changing any game at any time.
But more than changing games, Olson helped change a program. A freshman when the “New Era” begin, Olson helped set the tone in the weight room and on the field. As much as Monticello will miss his skill set next year, Telecky believes his work ethic will reverberate through the program for a long time to come.
“I’m so grateful,” said Telecky. “What he’s done for this program, he doesn’t even realize.”
Telecky believes words can only get kids to work so hard. He believes you have to have that carrot to dangle on a stick, to show them what they can achieve if they work for that. Birk became that carrot. Kids his age, and kids below him see what can be accomplished.
“He absolutely outworked everyone, hands down,” said Telecky. “Now he’s getting the rewards. It sets such a precedent.”
Of course, all the work in the world won’t make every player into Birk Olson. His skill set is extensive and unique. It’s one that allows him to make people miss or run them over on offense. It’s one that allows him to use finesse moves against offensive lineman then lay bone-crushing hits on the ball carrier. And it’s one that has earned him offers from Air Force Academy, Princeton and Cornell.
Olson has yet to decide on a program yet. If he chooses to stay close to home, he’s also interested in the University of St. Thomas.
Whatever college he chooses will take him away from Monticello. While his impact on the Magic program will last for years, it might take even longer for the Magic to see someone of his caliber again.
“He’s the whole package,” Telecky said. “I don’t think those guys come around very often.”